December 10, 2016

Redman "Muddy Waters" (The Source, 2/97)

"Def Squad lion Redman has no problem blazing up the path between mainstream and the underground with his third Reggie Noble vs alter ego installment, Muddy Waters. Slightly lodging the effort between the musical/lyrical cohesiveness of 1992's Whut? Thee Album, and the rhyme inventiveness of 1994's Dare Iz a Darkside, Redman comes to groove with the masses, but he'll be damned if it's easily digestible for everyone. The fascination with forging new lyrical horizons left many fans baffled and disillusioned when Red zoomed spaceward with the gold-selling Dare Iz A Darkside. Aside from the consistently gloomy, over-stripped arrangements and cryptic space-talk, Red took the path of Mothership pioneers Sun Ra and George Clinton, switching his style in defiance of complacency. The steady, bubbling syncopation on Whut? flipped to a furious flow of hazy metaphors and punchlines, best demonstrated on cuts like "Da Journee," Cosmic Slop" and "Green Island." Passionate about strictly taking the underground to new heights, Red publicly forewarned that Darkside wasn't made for everyone, especially the radio. Now how many rappers can do that shit and still sell units? Waters continues in the same expansive vein, coming down a notch on the comprehensibility meter in order to deal with earthly issues, some of which have been consistent from jump street.... But it's when rallying self-fulfilling causes that Red is most open."

"Displaying maturity as a producer, he resurrects his political commentator skills from '92 on the police-wary "What U Lookin' 4." The spiritually swaying "Whateva Man" finds the funk doctor flying his smokey flag for the underachievers. Groovable cuts like "Pick It Up" and "Da Bump" syllabically mow down underground perpetrators... Simple beat/rhyme frameworks also yield a tour de force when Red trades verses with erstwhile Squad mate K-Solo on the shamelessly banging "It's Like That (My Big Brother)." Even without the radio-accessibility of a hook, the song took off through FM airwaves. His post "How High" duet with Method Man (produced by the Fugees' Pras) may not be so lucky, as the censorship crowd might not take too kindly to Red gems ... but with Red you never know. As usual, the production wizardry is helmed by Squad elder Erick Sermon, smoothing out the Funkadelic soundscape with swirling keyboards and simmering kicks while maintaining a sinister feel with ominous, thematic bass drones. The sonic approach creates a dance floor-friendly vibe which seems perfectly appropriate for the Funk Dr. Spock's return to dry land, although if Sermon had just pushed a tad more for the variety manifested on Whut?, the end result would be perfection. But through all the murky travels, Red can still take what's given to him and aim for higher ground."